Surrounded by Silence
Prefuse 73 is about making beats, which, in this day and age, might seem like a quaint exercise. But with mainstream hip-hop circling the drain for the past year or two, and the same old turntablists still sounding like, well, the same old turntablists, a new approach to beat science is more than welcome. And Prefuse 73 --- we won't spoil the fun by revealing any names --- fucks with the program in a way that would make the earliest beat pioneers more than proud.
Prefuse's focus on beats could spell monotony, but he's well-known for his ability to take jarring left turns with his music. The concentration of sounds, and Prefuse's willingness to puree whole genres, is dizzying. But his hot rhythms keep things anchored for the heads.
On Surrounded by Silence the theme is collaboration, and it's tackled with the same verve as Prefuse 73's usual experiments. Vocalists and musicians from various reaches of modern music (The Books, Ghostface, El-P, Blonde Redhead's Kazu, Beans, Claudia and AlejandraDeheza, etc.)are enlisted and placed into the Prefuse context as he makes his digital connections. It's a great coming together, and it happens almost seamlessly; that is, once you grow accustomed to Prefuse's schizoid tendencies. And the bottom line is that it's all so crunchy, so full of up-to-the-moment funk, it's undeniable.
See You Next Tuesday
Pop-teen trio Fannypack, best known for the tacky one-hit wonder "Camel-toe," released their second full-length album this week. With "Camel-toe" (if you're wondering, it's the vaginal equivalent of a wedgie) Fannypack joined the unlucky club of gifted musicians unknown for anything beyond their one chart hit. And, unfortunately, it obscured the rest of So Stylistic, one of the best hip-hop albums of 2003.
There are actually five members in Fannypack, but the two brainchild producers --- Fancy and Matt Goias --- remain in the shadows, affording frontgirlsJessibel(18), Belinda (16), and Cat (21) the spotlight. See You Next Tuesdayis poised to redeem the group's faddish reputation. Geared to the Seventeen set, Tuesday is an anomaly: It appeals to hop-scotchers and hipsters alike.
With an impossibly mature taste in musical style, the album is an inspired pastiche of influences, drawing from dancehall, bhangra, drum-n-bass, '80s hip-hop, electro, and Miami bass. The girls boast a tripartite rapping interplay that hasn't been heard since the days of Paul's Boutique. And their crackling lyrics, effervescent delivery, and predilection for impolite language make the album irresistibly fun. This one might be a rung down from the heights of So Stylistic, but that still leaves it at the top of the heap.
--- Michael Neault